Novel, film “Kim Ji-young, Born 1982” face anti-feminist backlash


South Korean novel “Kim Ji-young, Born 1982”
and its upcoming movie adaptation have sparked fresh debate over the present-day South Korean
feminism movement, shedding light on the growing public interest on gender role issues. Cho Nam-joo’s
best-selling book, which portrays the life of Kim Ji-young, a female protagonist in her
thirties, has stirred nationwide sensation since its release on Oct. 14, 2016. Top-notch
K-pop stars, such as BTS leader RM, Sooyoung of Girls’ Generation and TV persona Yoo
Jae-suk, said they’ve read the award-winning book. In the book version, a male psychiatrist is
put to observe his patient Kim Ji-young, a woman who seems to lead a typical life of
a South Korean woman of her age. After getting pregnant, Ji-young, is forced to quit her
job and become a stay-home mother. The narrative develops as Ji-young experiences
a series of events that question her identity as a capable and decent person. The mother
then finds herself socially stigmatized as “mom-choong,” a derogatory slang for mothers,
meaning “mom bug.” The title, “Kim Ji-young, Born 1982,” was
intended to show that the protagonist’s life reflect that of a typical, ordinary South
Korean woman. According to the book’s preface, the name “Kim Ji-young” was the most common
name that was given to the new-born baby girls in 1982. Upon its market release, novel “Kim Ji-young,
Born 1982” was translated and sold in 18 countries around the world, especially posting
strong sales in China and Japan. At home, however, the book received mixed responses,
largely divided over gender. Among the supporters, the
book won sympathy from many female readers in Korea, selling over million copies for
the past three years. From the haters, on the contrary, the fiction has faced criticism
that the story simplifies South Korean men as sexist and abusive. The gender war has
moved on to the second round, as the book’s movie version is fixed to launch in late October
this year. “Kim Ji-young, Born 1982” once again became
the talk of the town by being made into a film. The movie version co-stars Korean star
actress Jung Yu-mi and actor Gong Yoo. This is the two actor’s third time co-starring
in a movie, after social drama “Silenced” (2011) and zombie thriller “Train to Busan”
(2016). When actress Jung Yu-mi was officially cast
in the film in September last year, her Instagram became a battle field, bursting with her fans
and haters’ comments about her appearance in
the film. The comment sections of Naver and Daum, the
country’s two biggest web portals, were also flooded with insults and mockery between different
genders. Apart from the clash of the gender debate,
the upcoming film’s changes and adaptations from the original work stay largely in veil.
Actress-turned-director Kim Do-young told local press that she felt pressured about
“boosting the cinematic features of the original book.” The female filmmaker said, the film will focus
on creating a Kim Ji-young whom the audience can comfortably sympathize with, without distorting
the key values of the book.

5 Replies to “Novel, film “Kim Ji-young, Born 1982” face anti-feminist backlash

  1. Whatever has happened it's absurd to name-call mothers mom-choong, mom-'bug'. Most of them try to do the very best they can and know to raise and take care of a child, not to meet some unreachable demands someone has set. I didn't know of this social phenomenon. Thanks for the report on the book and the movie.

  2. It’s unfortunate that this stigma follows unwed mothers. I’m sure they would be the first to tell you this isn’t the ideal situation. I don’t believe that women should seek out having children out of wedlock but when it happens, they should be embraced and supported. It’s very courageous to willing give life once created and then take responsibility.

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